Oct 23, 2006 (CANBERRA) — Sudan’s expulsion of a U.N. envoy is a serious setback to resolving the humanitarian crisis in the African nation’s Darfur region, Australia’s foreign minister said Monday.
Alexander Downer also urged Sudan to reconsider the expulsion order of Jan Pronk, the top U.N. official in the country.
“Australia believes that the Sudanese government’s expulsion of … Pronk is a serious setback in efforts to address the real and pressing issues facing Sudan at this time,” Downer said in a statement.
On Sunday, Khartoum ordered Pronk to leave within three days after he accused the country’s army of mobilizing Arab militias.
“I hope that Sudan will instead focus on addressing the humanitarian situation in Darfur and working with the United Nations and the broader international community in accepting the proposed deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur by the end of this year,” he added.
The expulsion order is the most serious dispute so far between the U.N. and the Khartoum government, which has refused to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur to maintain order and protect civilians from killings, rapes and other alleged atrocities.
Pronk, a former Dutch politician and diplomat, said on his personal Web blog on Oct. 14 that Sudan’s military had suffered heavy losses in recent fighting with rebels in northern Darfur.
The government was responding to the deteriorating situation “by directing more troops and equipment from elsewhere to the region and by mobilizing Arab militia” accused of horrific atrocities, Pronk said.
Australia has provided 52.6 million Australian dollars (US$40 million; A31.8 million) in humanitarian aid to Sudan since May 2004, Downer said.
Australia had also contributed 25 soldiers and police to the U.N. Mission in Sudan and has accepted more than 15,000 Sudanese as refugees.